Like the proverbial carrier of coal to Newcastle, the chief supplier of electricity to this coal-rich state is planning to import tons of the fuel from western United States to keep power flowing.
John W. Vaughan, executive vice president of Appalachina Power Co., said today that a 10-week wilcat strike by many of the state's United Mine Workers union members has reduced coal stockpiles to critical levels.
Vaughan said the huge John E. Amos plant near here, which supplies electricy to Applalachian Power and Ohio Power Co., had enough coal for 29 days of operations as of last Sunday.
Other power plants in the state had supplies for 44 to 45 days, he said. The plants together produce about one-fourth of the electricity distributed by the American Electric Power System. Appalachian Power also supplies parts of Virginia.
"The company has not alternative but to bring in some quantities of western coal on an interim basis in an effort to fulfill its obligation to meet the electrical needs of our customers," Vaughan said.
In addition, he said, Appalachian Power has asked the state Air Pollution Control Commission to permit the burning of coal with a higher sulfur content.
The low-sulfur coal the company usually burns is dug from its mines in southern West Virginia, center of the protest over cutbacks in the miners' medical benefits.
The West Virginia Coal Association reported that 14,500 miners remained on strike in the state today, with 10,000 on strike in eastern Kentucky.
A spokesman for the association said the strike has cost the miners $73 million in wages and $23 million in royalties for their health and retirement funds.
The strike has cost 12 million tons of coal production in West Virginia 20 million tons behind normal for the year.
West Virginia will produce fewer than 100 million tons of coal in 1977, he said, which would be the worst production year since 1938.
Vaughan said August coal deliveries at the Amos plant totaled 267,400 tons while the plant consumed 611,000 tons. The Kanawha River plant received 527 tons and burned 89,000 tons, he said.